A clearinghouse for information, analysis, and resources related to state sanctioned violence in the United States
The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 was sparked by a police officer’s refusal to arrest whites responsible for the drowning of a black boy who had floated across the invisible line that separated the “white” and “black” sides of a lakefront public beach. Tensions in Chicago had been growing for several years prior to this incident, however. The Great Migration caused an influx of black residents to a city that had long been characterized by strong labor unions drawn from white/European ethnic neighborhoods. Black southern migrants, accustomed to conditions that were akin to peonage, proved willing to accept lower wages. Black workers were used often as strikebreakers – a pattern exacerbated by many unions refusing to admit them. Although the riot began in response to violence on a public beach, it soon grew to include gangs of veterans, union members, police officers, and national guardsmen, who responded severely when black Chicagoans defended themselves. One of the largest, longest, and most destructive riots of the Red Summer of 1919, this incident was covered nationally, and has since received significant scholarly attention.
Newspaper clippings included here represent widely diverging viewpoints, with mainstream papers focusing on black militancy, while black newspapers highlighted longstanding injustices suffered by Chicago’s black residents, including the indiscriminate violence of both citizens and officers of the law.
News Coverage of the Riots
The Aberdeen Daily American, July 29th, 1919
The Columbus Enquirer-Sun, July 29th, 1919
The Grand Forks Herald, July 29th, 1919
The Kansas City Star, August 2nd, 1919
The Washington Bee, August 16th, 1919
(Image of cover only; PDF of full paper below)
Chicago and its 8 Reasons – Walter White explains the riot (transcript from George Mason University “history matters” online history survey materials)
The Chicago Race Riots, July 1919 – from Pultizer prize winner, poet and writer Carl Sandburg, a resident of Chicago at the time. (PDF: Chicago Race Riots – Carl Sandburg 1919, available via Hathi Trust. Originally published in 1919, this material is part of the public domain.)
The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 – online exhibit from The History Channel
Race Riots – online encyclopedia of Chicago
Chicago Race Riot – “Global Mappings” project at Northwestern University
Gangs and the 1919 Chicago Race Riot – online article, with primary and secondary source bibliography, from the University of Illinois, Chicago
Race Riot: Chicago and the Red Summer of 1919 – monograph-length history of the riot, by William Tuttle
Chicago and the Red Summer of 1919, Chicago Prison-Industrial Complex Teaching Collective, Historical Pamphlet Series, Vol. 6
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